Disagreements in preK-12 Education–navigating the energy

Greetings from St. Augustine.  Sunny and chilly this morning!

I recently heard someone say that one doesn’t become credible just because they start saying something you agree with.  That resonates with me.

Years ago I led a powerful community group in Charlotte, NC dubbed the Committee of 33.  These citizens and community leaders were called to action by then superintendent Eric Smith and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Board of Education, Susan Burgess, Arthur Griffin, George Dunlap, John Lassiter, and others to help  guide the school board and its superintendent on matters related to student/school assignment, desegregation, and busing.  There could not have been more diverse and divisive positions on the issues the Committee of 33 faced.  I was the hired-facilitator–certainly one of the most high risk assignments I had ever taken on.

One of the may lessons I learned from the Committee of 33 was that to be successful, everyone had to probe for (even little) kernels of agreement and to respect different points of view without obligation (or pressuring others) to necessarily agree.  In the areas of agreement eventually reached, the committee provided powerful guidance to the school board and superintendent.

Today, we face many, many issues where there is tremendous disagreement around the issues.  Teacher evaluation, uses of student achievement data, ways to teach and engage students, obligations of families, unions, leaders, governance, and the list goes on.

What we must do is learn to listen, negotiate, and navigate in ways that old Committee of 33 did.

I wonder what might happen to our levels of student, school, and teacher achievement if we could all learn to better mange disagreement and refrain from so quickly rendering others as lacking credibility before effectively engaging in dialogue and discovery.  We might just be able to quickly return our Nation’s systems of educating students back to top-of-the-world status.

I would appreciate your thoughts on these matters of navigating disagreement, agreement, and diverse points of view.

JW

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